Am I The Teacher or The Student?

Am I The Teacher or The Student?

What a challenge the past two weeks have been. I am teaching 6-9 year olds but honestly there have been times in these short two weeks where I am not sure who the student is and who the teacher is, this I will explain. Teaching in Thailand is nothing like I expected it to be, I know, more fool me for having expectations, but I did and it was these expectations that have hindered me greatly. I expected the children to be so well behaved because of the high level of respect they have for their teachers, this is not a complete lie because the children do have great respect for their teachers but, well behaved is something they are not. I know, they’re children, what was I thinking? Of course children are going to be exactly that, children! But these kids pretty much do what they want, they stand on their chairs, get up and run around, leave the class when it suits them, shout at me in Thai, and worst of all hit and fight one another and then find it funny when I make them apologise to one another because violence is something I will not stand for. If there was anything that I should have taken extremely serious during my TESOL course it should have been classroom management, because I haven’t got a clue.

Honestly, my first day of teaching was a complete blur, I don’t think it went terrible but I don’t think it went great either. I realised very quickly that the students were either complete angels or complete devils, there is no in between. I knew that my students were going to have a really low level of English proficiency yet it still took me by surprise. I obviously did not pronounce my name clearly enough because now the students call me teacher monkey rather than teacher Maggie, I mean it’s pretty cute and still an English word so I roll with it but the kids find it hilarious every time I say my name. I can’t blame them for struggling with me name because I am terrible at pronouncing Thai names, all the kids have nicknames and while they are very random some of them are easy ones like, Soda, Pub, Focus and Big. Others are more like a sound than an actual word and no matter how hard I try I butcher it. So when the students asked me to help them spell their nicknames in English I’m pretty sure I renamed the majority of them, I mean I can barely pronounce some of their names never mind spell them! But of course because I’m the English teacher not one of them questioned me and well a Thai nickname is for life…

During the first week I spent the time doing an introductory lesson so both myself and the students could test the waters. Some classes went pretty well while others went terrible. In each class there are a few students who for the most part understand what I say and are pretty engaged in the class while others do not have the slightest interest in what I have to say, one kid slept the whole way through my class! For the second week I have to give the students a pre test to get an idea of their capability. Now as I said I am teaching 6-9 year olds and I have to say I don’t agree with giving children that young a test in a foreign language they barely understand, but who am I to question the way things work. Just as I predicted the students hated the test, they were bored and agitated, and by Tuesday lunch time I was in tears. I wasn’t even the one doing the test but just reading it out loud I was boring myself.  And because the students had no interest in the test and I REALLY need to work on my classroom management, I ‘lost face’ as the Thais would say. I could hear myself shouting at the students to listen and to sit in their seats and as I was listening to myself I remembered that this was exactly the kind of teacher I did not want to be. Despite the students being totally out of control they still all finished the test and really I was just mad at myself for doing exactly what I didn’t want to do. Instead of thinking about how difficult it would have been for them to do a test in a foreign language and how boring it would have been for little kids to sit there for nearly an hour doing this test I got frustrated at them for not listening and talking over me. I took some time out at lunch time put in my headphone blared music and checked myself. I knew that if I didn’t get a handle on my frustration the rest of the day and week would just be a knock on affect and go as equally as bad if not worse.

As the week has gone on it has got better and despite the hard times there are some many kids in my classes that bring a huge smile to my face. I realise that my frustration is mainly at myself because I want so badly to be a great teacher and I really want to help make a difference to my students even if it is just with a few simple English words! I know it will get easier as I grow more confident in my ability to teach I just have to be patient. This blog has probably made me sound like the worst teacher in the world but I know I am not I just need to allow time because this experience will be just as valuable to me as it will be to my students. I am so very grateful for the help and support I have received from my co-workers because I would truly be lost without them!  While I am teaching the students English, they too are teaching me, each day they teach me about life. They are teaching me how to be patience, they are teaching me how to listen, they are teaching me how to be forgiving, because despite my moments of frustration they still give me the warmest smiles when they see me. And best of all they are showing me how amazing it feels to feel truly proud of someone. These two short weeks have made me see that in this experience I am just as much the student as I am the teacher.


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